Research – University of Copenhagen


The planned research and the research currently being conducted in the Department for Systematic Theology can be summarised under five headings:

Statue af Søren Kierkegaard ved Marmorkirken, København

I Ethics and views of humanity

The concept of the human being is a main theme in this discipline. A crucial tenet of Christianity appears to be that the human being is seen as a person, while at the same time, it seems to be ever more necessary to clarify in topical discussions exactly what it means to be a person. Our understanding of what human beings actually are is increasingly characterised by different forms of naturalism. It is against this background that the concept of the individual is presented for renewed consideration - how does the designation "human being" relate to our understanding of the human being as part of nature?
The section's research places special emphasis on the link between ethics and concepts of the human being. This is done both via studies of the relationship between the individual, nature and subjectivity, as well as in, for example, bio-ethical studies. These discussions have extensive and far-reaching theological implications.

II Religion, metaphysics and hermeneutics

It is characteristic of current theological discussion that it takes place between a classic/modern metaphysical horizon on one side, and a hermeneutic, metaphysical/critical horizon on the other. This duality is particularly expressed in relation to the understanding of the nature of religion, including considerations of how a religious interpretation of existence, such as that found in Christianity, relates to a non-religious (e.g. natural science) interpretation of human beings and the world. However, this duality also manifests itself in theological considerations of the concept of God, a central theme in the research under this heading.

III Søren Kierkegaard research

For various historical and academic reasons, Kierkegaard research occupies a prominent position at the Faculty of Theology, particularly under the Department for Systematic Theology, where there is a separate Kierkegaard section. In close collaboration with the Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre, which was established on 1 January 1994 with a grant from the Danish National Research Foundation, the section plays a leading role in international Kierkegaard research.
Kirkegaard research in Copenhagen is bound by two particular obligations. Firstly, to serve as the setting for the regular supervision of Masters and PhD -level programmes for the Danish and foreign researchers and students who converge on Copenhagen in large numbers to study Kierkegaard. In addition, the research is obliged to interpret Kierkegaard's works in a topical, systematic-theological context. This is particularly true of the ethical and religious philosophy tradition, upon which Kierkegaard has made a major impact, in Denmark and around the world.

IV Ecclesiology, body and communication

Christianity is essentially contextual and communicative. It is given shape and meaning by the human contexts and varied social processes that surround it. It touches both intellectual and cognitive understanding, collective and individual action, and the different forms of practice, as well as upon the creation of a sense of identity and belonging.
The exploration of the Christian religious service as a historical and contemporary practice is a core example of this. On one level, the religious service and the rituals' textual dimensions function as the oral communication of historical texts. However, the liturgical event also involves a specific, physical presence that performatively generates a meaning within the participants that transcends the textual.
Practical theological research looks at the development of theologically adequate communication theories, incorporating critical/ethical considerations of the communications' potential and limitations. It also explores the roles of physicality and performativity in Christian communication.

V Theology, church and society

The department's research looks at the fault lines that characterise the church's relationship with learning and the wider society. The often tense relationship between the dogmatic normalising of understanding and the church's actual practices is often taken up as an independent main subject. Similarly, the research discusses the church's relationship with the state, the market and civil society, and addresses questions associated with the church's identity as the national church. In this context, inspiration is derived from N.F.S. Grundtvig's understanding of the relationship between popular appeal and Christianity.